I was saddened to read in USA Today that $10 million had been cut from the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, which aids low-income and minority students in pursuing advanced degrees, particularly because McNair was a South Carolina native and an African-American who became an accomplished physicist and astronaut.
Coincidentally, I visited McNair’s memorial in Lake City a week ago. Because McNair died in the Challenger disaster in 1986, along with Christa McAuliffe from my former home in Concord, N.H., I was dually interested in him. I had spent many months in the newsroom following McAuliffe’s selection to become the first teacher in space, her NASA training and later watching on TV as her children’s class witnessed the awful explosion. Probably McNair’s family was among the spectators, as well.
McNair’s memorial was next to the library. We had heard on a recent public radio program that McNair loved to read, but, as a child of color, he reputedly was not allowed to take a book home until his mother came to the library and promised to pay for any book he did not return. He certainly overcame the challenges of that time with his achievements, and through his memorial program has given back more $660 million to math and science postgraduate students since 1989.
Let’s not drop the ball. Let’s urge our federal representatives to continue to support excellence, and honor one of South Carolina’s own.